The Phoenix Years

I left McMichael Radio to work back on the Slough Trading Estate at the Phoenix Rubber Company. They produced rubber compounds that went into all sorts of products for instance windscreen wiper blades and rubber bonded to metal engine mountings and goodness knows what else. The rubber was sent off to the manufacturers of these products in an uncured state.

They were also big in producing PVC compounds for use in the growing injection moulding industry and also plastic extrusions. They produced their own range of floor tiles especially the heavy duty anti static tiles used in hospitals.

Basically I was taken on as a junior draughtsman. I had my own office next to Mr Schueler’s complete with drawing board, bookshelves, cupboards and good view out of the window of the girls crossing the railway track and the road from the associated factory opposite.

Did I say girls? Yes, the previous three jobs were, like school, free of females. Now it was different. My job involved roaming around, going across the road to the buyers office, bumping into those various girls and it was there that I met my first girlfriend when I was at the age of nineteen I believe. Well, she had just become sixteen, and I was three years older.

I didn’t realise it at the time but George William Kenneth Schueler was almost like a father to me. He certainly took me under his wing and was probably the only man whom I can say had any real influence on my life. I can’t say my father had much influence. We were at loggerheads most of the time, but then I feel he didn’t actually ever know who I was in a way. I suppose the ‘Phoenix Years’ were the most influental time in my life.

Anyway I digress, the relationship with my father was a complex matter for another time, and my first girlfriend and then my wife will have to come later.

The way Ken Schueler influenced me was that he taught me how to look at an engineering situation and propose a solution. He taught me to think laterally, but not only that he had confidence in my ability to actually do it. After years of my father telling me ‘You’re no good, you can’t do that’ – the very antithesis of child rearing – here was someone who told me I could do that, and who trusted me to do it.

Not only that, but he trusted me to drive his Jaguar and any other vehicle in the company. I drove amongst many others, the MD’s E-Type, and the MD’s trial car – “go out and break it R-a-a-y”.

I should explain here that the top boss was a bit of a car nut. He had a string of veteran cars and he was into trial cars. So, my brief was to drive the trial car around a couple of days before a competition because it was better if I broke it than the boss did on competition day. Wow, what a time I had. To Be Continued

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